Chong Mek locals slam authorities for failing to repair bridge

UBON RATCHATHANI – Residents of Chong Mek Subdistrict in Ubon Ratchathani Province are urging local authorities to finally replace a wooden bridge that collapsed in July last year. But according to a letter from the provincial vice governor, the local administration failed to secure funding as it did not include the project in its four-year development plan.

On January 4, representatives of Thung Nong Yai Village petitioned the Chong Mek Subdistrict Administrative Organization to follow up on its promise to obtain funding from the provincial authorities for the construction of a new bridge.

More than 200 families in the village depend on the bridge to get to the border town of Chong Mek. Many farmers crossed the bridge every day to reach their fields on the other side of the stream or transport their produce to the local market.

But since the bridge became impassable in January last year and collapsed during the following rainy season, locals have to take a five-kilometre detour.

For four years, the bridge provided a convenient shortcut for locals in Chong Mek Subdistrict. But during last year’s rainy season, the wooden bridge collapsed and has been left unrepaired by local authorities.

Following the residents’ initial complaint in January, the subdistrict administration informed the village head of Thung Nong Yai that its annual budget could not cover repair of the bridge. Therefore it would request funding of 3.5 million baht (about $112,000 USD) from the provincial authorities for the construction of a steel-concrete bridge.

Mr. Simuang Kamin, a 63-year-old representative of Thung Nong Yai Village, told The Isaan Record that district officials had promised they would apply for funding from the Provincial Administrative Organization.

But in December, Provincial Vice Governor Chaloemphon Mangkhang said that the funding request was rejected as the Chong Mek Subdistrict Administrative Organization had failed to include the bridge construction project in its four-year development plan.

The four-year local development plan is a new initiative of the Ministry of Interior to streamline budget planning of local governing bodies for development projects at the provincial level. For the period 2018-2021, districts and municipalities were required to submit their plans by October 2017.

Representatives of Thung Nong Yai Village hand over a petition to the Subdistrict Administrative Organization of Chong Mek calling for the repair or replacement of the collapsed bridge.

Ms. Dusani Khon-ngulueam, head of the secretariat of the Subdistrict Administrative Organization, explained that projects to be included in the four-year development plan had to pass a public hearing first.

She confirmed that the organization did not have sufficient funds to repair or replace the bridge last year. But she could not comment on the provincial authorities rejection to provide funding.

Reporting by Phanuphap Yuthakij, a participant of The Isaan Journalism Network Project 2017 organized by The Isaan Record.